While I try to discuss every form of storytelling media out there, it should be no surprise that comics tend to come up the most since that’s what I enjoy making. Comics are a great way to tell a story. Each medium out there–television, movies, video games, audio dramas, books, short stories, theater, web shows, and whatever may come in the future–each tell a story in their own way and can do things none of the other can. However, comics and video games tend to be the ones most looked down upon, with animation being a rejected format by so many people out there.
However, both fans and detractors get a few things wrong about what makes comics great and what doesn’t. This video from What Culture Comics goes over ten of those mistakes, and I have a few comments on this as well. He brings up a lot of the recurring topics that show up here at the Spotlight in both comics and other media so if you’re new here this is something of a primer.
First off, the usual link to the YouTube channel for our video makers.
I’m not going to comment on everything Ewan brings up but some do elicit a response. As far as the comic industry dying, the industry might not be but it is a shadow of what it was. Comic stores are closing. Less people read comics today than they did when they first came out. There are a lot of problems right now and today’s kids aren’t getting into comics like my generation did because comics have ignored them. And remember, I grew up in the Bronze Age and I had comics where people were getting killed or horribly mutated. It was a balance between kids and adults. Kids could also afford comics from their allowance, but now not only can’t they but they can’t even find them unless a comic store is nearby. The movies have not been translating to new comic readers and there are a lot of reasons for that, which is an article in itself. The industry may not be dying but it is slipping as older fans try to hog everything for themselves and publishers keep things to just the comic stores and then screw them over.
DC used to be a lighter universe, but Dan DiDio’s been working to change that. Marvel is about relatable heroes and DC aspirational.
It’s funny that Ewan is saying that writers are valued more than artists. It’s harder for a writer to get into comics. They can’t just bring samples of their work to a convention to be examined since it takes more time to read a story than examine (not just look at) a piece of art. So many comics, even before padding for the trade, seem to focus more on giving the artist (or at least the penciler) enough space to draw whatever they want as large as they want. I’m not saying the writer is being devalued either, but a good comic has a good balance between the story, the art (pencils, inks, and colors) and the lettering.
As far as “not being political”, I think the problem has been that titles not usually known for their politics have started being about the writer’s political perspectives, and they’re usually so heavy-handed and angry that even people who hold those views want them to back off because they’re being preached to rather than being allowed to enjoy a good story. A good message can be lost when it isn’t properly woven into the story. These views are also very one-sided, and sometimes the message itself is suspect when the story seems to run in conflict of the message because the writer just wants to target this person or that group, especially his or her critics. That’s when it gets really sketchy and tends to run off even people on your “side” of the debate as being extreme and doing damage to the characters and a misunderstanding of the worlds’ lore. Look up some of Just Some Guy’s reviews on YouTube for some great examples of that, even if you avoid his other commentaries. He has great examples of how to do a message, even an extreme one, correctly and incorrectly in comics.
Comics are great, and I wish more people can see that. However, the snobs from Fredrick Wertham to Bill Maher refuse to see comics in general and superheroes specifically as something other than trash, and they probably always will. I’ve seen comic creators trying to turn comics into other mediums, mostly borrowing from live-action cinema, rather than do what makes comics best or promote what makes comics so great. Getting them into libraries is nice and all, but we need to bring back some of the old methods of reading new readers like not just restricting them to comic stores or the graphic novel section of the bookstore, fight back against those who hate comics not with rage but with the truth, accept digital comics as comics (granted I’m bias as I make web comics), and stop all the in-fighting and let everyone have the comics they enjoy without trying to turn “your comics” into “my comics” or trying to keep this political group or that age group out of comics. Otherwise the medium may in fact die. We can’t count on movies and TV shows who ignore as much of the source material as possible and just swipes the base concepts to draw in comic fans because it’s not working. If you love comics, say so and say why. Don’t let the angry control the narrative and don’t let it consume you either. Comics are great, and the more people that know that, even if they don’t read comics themselves, should be told that.